Well, another one of those unexpected-homeowner-expenses—our lawn mower finally gave up the ghost, I think. This was probably breakdown number ten; I’ve been patching it up for years and years. Here’s my wife’s facebook post—
So, I decided to replace it with an electric mower. And one with a battery, not one with a cord… I had seen a few models at Lowe’s the other week, ranging from $150 to $350. But, we drove up there only to find that they were completely sold out, and back-ordered; apparently the mowers are selling like hotcakes. This is good for the planet, but wasn’t good for me. Home Depot didn’t have any cordless models, so I dropped by the DR Equipment store in Vergennes—bingo. They sell Neuton brand electric mowers, which I had actually heard of. So, this was the epitome of buying-without-research—we got there at 11 minutes to closing time on a Friday before a holiday weekend, with a wife at home who was pretty determined to mow, and mow soon. (She does the bulk of the lawn mowing). They had two models, basically large and medium, so I immediately told the salesperson that I’d take a large, at $399, and ten minutes later I was a Neuton mower owner.
My wife was pretty skeptical. Fortunately the battery was nearly fully charged. Unfortunately, the grass was somewhat high; due to broken mower. But the Neuton held its own. We decided that the max height setting (3 inches) was probably the closest match to how we cut it before, and experimented with the discharge chute and with the mulching arrangement. I was surprised with the mulching—I thought it would draw more power, but it didn’t seem to, and left virtually no clippings. (We don’t bag our clippings, unless I’m collecting up material for the compost pile). Even though it wasn’t fully charged, the battery lasted at least 45 minutes, and my wife got about a quarter of the lawn cut.
And, similarly to owning the Leafs—our rural off-grid situation is slightly atypical, and will require a bit more planning than a normal suburbanite might have to deal with. The lawn is largish, and rather than letting the grass grow quite a bit and then powering through it with the 6-hp gas mower, we’re going to have to cut it before it gets really high. But the mower is way lighter than the old one, and you can walk quickly when the grass isn’t high, so this should be about the same amount of total effort. And, we might need to buy a second battery (it pulls right out of the mower; easy) so that we can mow for two hours, instead of one. (My preference would be to go the “Minimalist” route and choose to not have such a big lawn, but I’m getting out-voted on this one). The batteries require at least eight hours to charge, so even with two it will take two sessions to get the lawn cut, no more 4-hour mowing marathons. (Again–I’d opt for a smaller lawn…).
But—I’d guess that we have been using about 25 gallons of gasoline a season, just cutting the grass. Perhaps more; it seems like every other weekend one of us is making a special trip to the gas station in the gas-powered vehicle (pre-Leaf) just to fill up the gas can. Here’s the Neuton handouts that came with the mower—
I suppose these points pretty much sum it up. In the end, 25 gallons saved is a just a fraction of the 1,000 gallons a year we’ll save with the Leafs. But, another step in the right direction. And my wife will just have to live with the plastic wheels.
Image credits: Me
Update: I really like this mower. This is something I didn’t expect; in the back of my mind I was prepared for a constant compromise to be fossil-fuel free in the mowing department. But the more I used it today the more I liked it (I did buy a second battery). It’s lighter than the old one, and way easier to “refuel”; no more messing with funnels and gas. Plus, it occurred to me that the 25-gallon fuel savings, every year, will pay for the mower in about five years. And that’s just not something that happens with a gas mower, period. And I don’t have to wear hearing protection when I mow. Yay.
Update, May 2016: We’re on year four with the batteries, and they’re starting to lose a little of their oomf (technical term). At $100 each, I’m thinking about changing over to one of the new Greenworks lithium-ion 80-volt models with quick-chargers. I’ll make sure the current one gets to someone who will use it…